My sister flew in from London to celebrate her birthday with us. I thought “Special place? Somewhere new for me to write about? Easy on the stomach because we are in full summer heat here in Barcelona…Dos Palillos!” (I ate at Dos Palillos Berlin in 2010 and remember enjoying it.)
The meal started off with a bang when the soda siphon containing our fuchsia hued cocktail misfired covering our server’s white chef’s jacket in enough of the stuff that he looked like he’d been paint balled. Returning with clean chef’s whites, he served us crispy whitebait in something that looked like a washed up fish net and tasted delicious. I thought to myself – “nailed it. Totally the right choice for lunch.”
Two interpretations using white asparagus; one a perky punchy riff on a Thai salad, the other a variation on Japanese nimono. Loveliness.
Then a rather peculiar dish of sea bass with the smoothness and shape of sea glass painted with a layer of bitter, white stuff.
The dinky razor clams with segmented citrus that comes next lifts us far away from the previous dish.
And then the bad cop enters the room again: sasami de pollo the menu says. 3 pale chunks interspersed with segments of fish roe in its sac.
I raise my hand “Is this chicken?”
The chef in front of me colours slightly “Yes”.
“And it’s raw?”
“No because it is from the pechuga – the false fillet which is very well protected.” (What he means is it is an interior piece of flesh well away from the intestinal tract where salmonella resides.)
At this point the man next to us, who is doing a spectacular job of ordering (fried sardines filled with umeboshi, dumplings filled with hot broth) interjects: “You don’t get sick from this restaurant, I’ve been eating here for years and have never been sick.”
I chew it slowly and then speed up so I can get through it. It’s all very Anthony Bourdain. Having finished my portion, I remain unconvinced as to the point of it all but then I wouldn’t be interested in trying fugu either. I also think that since we’ve indicated we don’t want oysters or raw shrimp, a heads up would be nice. (Later I google the onset of salmonella after eating contaminated food: 12-72 hours and find an article in Newsweek Chicken Sashimi is the Other Pink Meat)
Meanwhile the man next to me has a small plate of spring rolls put in front of him.
A moment later our server places another plate in front of us – “Lambs brains” he announces solemnly. My little sister blanches. (To be fair, I like offal: brains, sweetbreads, liver – all fine. Kidneys not so much. And like I said, I don’t much like playing salmonella roulette.)
We are paying €75 each for the small tasting menu + a glass of wine & small bottle of still water each. Our bill is €165, his bill for two with wine comes to €135. I think he’s gotten the better deal and a meal more to my taste. That’s the thing about opting for the tasting menu – it’s like a concept car or a catwalk show – a world away from what you would drive or wear everyday. A tasting menu should brim with creativity, innovation and push the boundaries out as far as possible.
Which Albert Raurich (who acted as head chef at El Bulli from 2001 – 2007) definitely does. He get’s positively Willy Wonka on his customers but it’s worth remembering that Wonka’s factory is amazing but also kind of scary in places.
I find Dos Palillos in Barcelona pushes the boundaries considerably more than its sister restaurant in Berlin. I would speculate this is because the Catalans are extremely daring eaters and celebrate texture (I always say they are the most Chinese-like Europeans).
It’s the most memorable meal I have had in a while and next time I come, I am going to have what my neighbour had, one to one. And amuse myself watching the expressions of the people who get stuck with the chicken sashimi. (Oh and just to be clear, I did not get salmonella, not even the smallest twinges of stomach upset. They know what they are doing with that raw chicken.)
See this and more addresses on my Foodie in Barcelona Map
Carrer d’Elisabets, 9,
08001 El Raval